Friday, May 29, 2015

CAEPed Crusader Ousted

“I regretfully acknowledge that CAEP, as a new organization
just finding its legs, has not always provided consistent or sufficient guidance to providers, particularly to those early adopters with visits prior to 2016…[W]hat CAEP has provided up to now has not been sufficient. In the words of our Standards Commission,
“results matter – effort is not enough.”
As the CEO of CAEP, I take full responsibility for our shortcomings.”

-         James Cibulka (March 20, 2015)

This from Inside Higher Education:
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation has weathered more than its fair share of turbulence in its few years in existence, perhaps the inevitable result of its origins (a merger between two unequal and competing accreditors) and its mission (tougher standards in a field long criticized for settling for lesser ones). That the organization has accomplished what it has, let alone survived at all, is arguably a victory.

Its founding leader, James Cibulka, wasn't so fortunate. He was dismissed this month. The accreditor noted Cibulka's departure with one line in a news release about his interim successor, and its board chair repeatedly declined in an interview to say anything of substance about why Cibulka is leaving, except to imply that he may have been the right person to build the organization but not to lead it.
"What's important is the future of CAEP, not the past," said Mary Brabeck, professor and dean emerita of New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, while parrying questions about Cibulka's abrupt departure.

But the past matters if patterns revealed by it may influence the future, and that's what some observers of the situation say is the case here.

In pushing a reform-minded agenda, the accreditor has long stirred criticism from the main organization representing teacher ed programs (the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education) and from unions that represent teachers, even as they have formally endorsed its existence and mission.

In February, the board of AACTE approved a sweeping resolution expressing a "crisis of confidence" in the accreditor and many aspects of its work. The resolution reiterated the professional group's support for the idea of a single national accreditor and for CAEP in particular, but expressed concern about the group's standards, processes and governance structure, among other things.

Cibulka's ouster came about two months later, over the strongly worded objections of most of the accreditor's staff. And while Brabeck says the lobbying group's resolution had "nothing to do" with the CAEP board's decision to change leaders, some familiar with the situation question that assertion.
Jane Leibbrand was a vice president at the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the larger of the accreditors that merged to create CAEP. She attributes the leadership change primarily to CAEP's struggles to merge the two organizations into one and to communicate about, and put into operation, the new, tougher standards to which it will hold teacher education programs.

But she and others say those who have opposed the new accreditor's push for tougher standards -- especially for more stringent academic standards for students admitted to teacher education programs -- almost certainly seized on concerns over operational issues to push out the primary architect of those changes.

"Jim had a vision that involved change," Leibbrand said. "That is difficult, and more difficult for some institutions than others."

Battles in the Background

Cibulka did not respond to several requests to comment for this article. Several other people who might have shed light on the reasons for his ouster -- including other members of CAEP's board and several of its employees -- also declined to talk publicly, referring questions to Brabeck.

But the tension-filled history of CAEP's emergence is well documented. Teachers' colleges have for two decades been a constant (and they would argue unjustified) target of critics of the American K-12 system, who say the schools do not adequately prepare teachers for the classroom. The pages of Inside Higher Ed and, even more, publications like Education Week, are filled with reports and critiques of teacher education program. And more than five years ago, various parties reached agreement on creating a new single national accreditor to try to push, and lift, the programs to strive for more. Under the arrangement, the National Council for Accreditation in Teacher Education, the traditional accreditor, merged with the much smaller Teacher Education Accreditation Council to form CAEP.

Cibulka, who had been NCATE's president and before that dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky, became CAEP's leader, and over the next three years, the field -- amid much debate and often disagreement -- coalesced around a set of standards that required colleges to provide evidence that their own students are academically solid and that they are effective once they become teachers. The evidence-based approach was consistent with what reformers (and many politicians, including several in the Obama administration) have wanted.

Political flare-ups occurred over a perception that Cibulka and, by extension, CAEP had been overly supportive of the Obama administration’s proposals to change how teacher education programs were judged for federal purposes. Many college leaders (and education faculty unions) complained that the tougher admissions standards CAEP sought for education students would keep would-be teachers who are members of minority groups out of the teaching profession. Teachers’ colleges and faculty unions rarely complained openly about the tougher standards; given public sentiment about the quality of the K-12 system, public statements suggesting that they were against more rigor would not have played well.

But complaints were plentiful about whether CAEP was up to the task of implementing the new standards, and that became the focus of the case against Cibulka.

‘More Intense’ Worries

The AACTE board’s resolution included a laundry list of concerns that created what it called a “crisis of confidence” in Cibulka and CAEP. “As CAEP becomes more operational, worries become more intense,” said Sharon Robinson, AACTE’s president and CEO.

“Our board felt most urgently about making sure they were respectful of member concerns,” Robinson said. “That was our motivation to put forward the resolution. It was an effort to really reflect member concerns.” 
Leibbrand, the former NCATE official, said that at times CAEP officials seemed overmatched by the demands of implementing the standards and explaining them to administrators and professors at the schools that would be judged by them. She described conference sessions at which CAEP officials were unable to answer questions about the expectations schools would be facing, and a delay in producing the manual designed to guide the accredited through the process.

“When that happened, it starts a dynamic,” she said. “When staff weren’t able to answer questions satisfactorily, it didn’t promote a feeling of confidence.”

But she and others said the “biggest factor” in unhappiness with CAEP and Cibulka was ultimately that “you had a radical change in accreditation standards, and it required new behavior on the part of institutions.”

On April 1, between the time of the AACTE resolution and Cibulka's ouster, about two-thirds of CAEP employees wrote the board what they called "the strongest possible letter of support" for Cibulka. They acknowledged that, as in "all transitions, the road has not always been smooth," marked by "mistakes and missteps." But the letter -- signed by 25 of roughly 35 employees -- was designed to signal the "unwavering support of his staff": "We are all committed to CAEP's mission and wholeheartedly support the leadership of Jim Cibulka."

But in early May, about two months after the AACTE board’s resolution, CAEP’s board announced that Cibulka was out and would be replaced on an interim basis by Christopher Koch, former Illinois state superintendent of education and vice chair of the CAEP board. The only mention of Cibulka was that he would be replaced by Koch -- his five years of work to build the organization received no mention.

Robinson said she and AACTE played no role in encouraging CAEP to get rid of Cibulka. And in an interview, Brabeck, the CAEP board chair, denied any link between the unhappiness reflected by the AACTE resolution and the decision to dump Cibulka.

She credited Cibulka with launching CAEP and bringing the field together around the accreditation standards. “The country owes Jim a lot of credit for getting us to the moment we’re in,” she said.
But “bringing together the two organizations” to “form the best single accreditor is still a work in progress,” she said. “I don’t believe there’s a man for all seasons,” she added.

She dismissed the notion that AACTE’s displeasure with Cibulka and CAEP reflected discomfort with the tougher standards. “I take AACTE at its word when it says they are 100 percent behind the standards,” Brabeck said. She said she took Robinson at her word that they are committed to CAEP, too.

"What's important now is the future of CAEP, that we have a leader in place who’s committed to the standards…. The future is about the kids in our schools. That’s what CAEP is trying to affect.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Non Profit Returns $25,000 Payment from School District

I don't have comparative data, but the number of contracts issued to outside agencies to do work for the Fayette County Schools during the Shelton administration felt excessive. Perhaps that was because the nature of such contracts seemed to change as well. Got a problem with the personnel in your financial services division? Hire a consultant. Get a bad report from the State Auditor? Hire a consultant. The repetitive nature of the outsourcing left one to wonder if the FCPS district office lacked the capacity to run it's own shop.

 It apparently became normal business for FCPS to contract with civic non-profits to provide services that are more typically thought to be volunteer work. As I recall, Junior Achievement was one such group. Volunteers would come to class and share experiences and information with students about the our economic system, work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. But these days the district pays Junior Achievement - we hear, $22,000 per year - to send volunteers. What's up with that?

Today it was reported that another non-profit, United Way of the Bluegrass, apparently re-thought their arrangement, and decided to return $25,000 to the district. Good for them. The contract was reportedly signed by Shelton on his last day in office, and bypassed the board because the item came out of the Superintendent's budget, and was below the allowable limit. And what a contract it was.  Written in aspirational terms, the year-long agreement called for United Way and FCPS to pilot an effort to "improve the way the district uses limited resources to improve student outcomes."


"To charge the school district to help the worst-rated elementary school in the Commonwealth was not something we wanted to do," 

-- United Way of the Bluegrass CEO Bill Farmer

_ER14549.JPGFlanked by a team of specialists from the district who are helping, Jones presented his plan to improve student achievement.

In a new initiative since statewide test scores were released in October, some principals of low performing schools in Fayette County are asked to appear at board meetings to share their improvement plans.

But the presentations aren't blame sessions.
"The public needs to understand the challenges you face and how proactive you've been in addressing those needs," school board chairman John Price told Jones at a March meeting. "It takes time for these things to happen."

Price told Jones he wanted more information on what William Wells Brown needed.

"The board needs to better understand the needs that you have so we can try to build a budget," Price said.

With the board set to approve a tentative budget Tuesday, Price said this week that the 2015-16 budget has very little money to help William Wells Brown and other low performing schools. He said the board was looking for more money in the 2016-17 budget.

Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm has said it's possible the district will be able to address some of William Wells Brown's needs with federal money.

In terms of demographics, 96 percent of the school's students receive free or reduced-price lunch. About two-thirds of the students are black and 12 percent Hispanic.

With a score of 34.4 out of 100, William Wells Brown Elementary was the lowest rated among elementary schools statewide in Kentucky's testing and accountability program in 2013-14.
It is classified by the state as "needs improvement" as opposed to "proficient" or "distinguished." William Wells Brown also is classified as a "focus" school, meaning that it is underperforming in closing the achievement gaps between poor, minority and disabled students and other students.
The school's plan for moving to proficient includes Jones working closely with a mentor provided by the school district — a retired principal — and with the district's elementary director.

Jones is focusing on improving teacher and principal effectiveness, trying to increase the school's engagement with families and the community, and on creating a safe learning environment.

Jones is trying to increase the number of students who are prepared for kindergarten with two full-day preschool classes in the fall of 2015. He is trying to increase minority hiring, and to better monitor daily instruction. Students are getting instruction in small groups and teachers are getting more professional development.

A new reading program has been purchased for the school.

"I believe I have the hardest working staff in the district. They come in early. They stay late and are always going above and beyond to meet the needs of students," Jones said.

Officials from Fayette County's 16th district PTA, an organization that provides support to individual school PTAs, have been helping to train parents in the William Wells Brown PTA.

A service team from the district has been helping with community engagement, with lesson planning, testing, data analysis, monitoring special education services and with a school-wide behavior plan.
Data analysis is the foundation on which school officials monitor how well students are learning and what kind of classwork they need.

Academic data is analyzed twice weekly by teachers and an instructional leadership team. Data is also analyzed at the school's monthly decision-making council meetings.

Regular classroom test results are monitored, and instructional coaches work with teachers if scores drop.

Behavior data is examined, including data on students who get sent to the principal's office for infractions. Incidents are analyzed by teacher, location, time of day, day of week, type of infraction, grade level, gender, and ethnicity.

Out-of-school suspensions have decreased by 57 percent.

"Kids are struggling academically so it doesn't make sense to send them home," the principal said.
Instead the school is trying after-school detention.

While test scores are important, Jones said he also looks for steady progress, academically and socially, as indicators of a student's success.

Jones said he was pleased with the support he had received from district officials, but he told the school board he needed a new program to help students with math, more training for staff and more staff members.

The school district gave the United Way of the Bluegrass a $25,000 contract to work with the district's office of Family and Community Engagement to recruit, train, and place volunteers at the school. But Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm said United Way officials recently returned payment they had received from the district, saying United Way officials had determined they could help the district without receiving money.

"To charge the school district to help the worst-rated elementary school in the Commonwealth was not something we wanted to do," United Way of the Bluegrass CEO Bill Farmer told the Herald-Leader Friday.

Farmer said that while there was a cost associated with the work, "we felt it was more important to provide the services than to be paid."

Farmer said the United Way also wanted to help the other elementary schools in Fayette County that are classified by the state as "needs improvement."

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rand Paul: Not Opposed to National Testing

Well, first, Rand Paul never took a National Test because there wasn't one. He probably did take many nationally-normed standardized tests. But that's hardly the same thing.

Second, being in favor of a national test but opposed to allowing all students to know and practice the same curriculum in order to be successful on that test, is crazy as an instructional strategy.

This from Politics K-12:
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and 2016 presidential candidate, talked education during an interview Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, during which he said that he's not against national testing, despite his anti-federal-meddling attitude. Though to be sure, he's still very much opposed to a national curriculum.

The interview largely focused on foreign affairs issues, but crept into the edu-world when host Chuck Todd asked Paul about an idea in his book, Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America.

The idea, loosely explained, is that a superb teacher should be teaching millions of students via online classes, not 20 to 30 students in a small classroom.

Here's the idea explained in Paul's own words:
"One of the big leaps forward for America was when we started becoming a meritocracy and everybody was open for education. There's still some people in America, but particularly in other countries, who are trapped in poverty and don't have access. When the Internet expands this access and someone in the recesses of the jungle can learn from the best calculus teacher on the planet, we're going to discover a genius who will allow progress and mankind to improve, and I think it's going to be a huge leap for technological progress. But it's by having larger classrooms, which is counterintuitive, not smaller. They will be virtual classrooms, and they will be extraordinarily cheap."
Specifically, Todd pushed Paul to explain why this idea of having one teacher teaching an entire nation— a teacher who presumably creates his or her own curriculum—is different than a national curriculum, which Paul explains in his book that he opposes.

"How is that not in contradiction to being against the Common Core [State Standards], but for nationalized teaching, like what you describe?" Todd asked.

Paul's libertarian ideals plant him firmly in the "get government out of my life" camp—in fact, if he had his way, he'd abolish the entire U.S. Department of Education—so the question was meant as a bit of a gotcha. (And, side note, the common core is a set of standards—not a curriculum, as it's often characterized by those who oppose it.)

"I'm not saying this comes from government," Paul said in response to Todd's question. "I think this comes more than likely from the innovators you meet in Silicon Valley or the innovators you meet in Austin, Texas."

When Todd pushed back, saying that it doesn't sound like the local government mantra he's so fond of, Paul clarified: "I'm not arguing against any kind of national communication or even national testing. I took national tests when I was a kid," Paul continued. "What I'm arguing against is centralized control in one body of the government."

You can listen to the entire exchange here. Scroll across to minute 41.

That education made it into the 10-minute interview at all is a big deal, and bodes well for education being a major issue in the 2016 election cycle, especially debate over the ever divisive common-core standards.

Giving Tradition a Bad Name

Well, we know Angela Allen is not bigoted, closed-minded, or against things that are not like her, because she told us so. 

Angela Allen
But I'm still confused about just what it is that upset an otherwise intelligent-sounding member of the Danville community, to the point that she felt compelled to leave a baccalaureate service, in anger, because a Muslim student exercised her first amendment right to religious expression as a citizen of the United States, to read and chant a passage from the Quran. Allen says she is not particularly religious herself. Is she anti-American, or opposed to civil rights somehow?

Other students at the ceremony offered religious expressions to the same God. But Allen specifically doesn't care to be swayed by that logic. "To tell me that I need to be educated and need to understand that both sides are worshiping the same God is futile — tell the two sides, not me," Allen writes.

Her explanation for her anger relates to a perceived assault on tradition. She explains that a baccalaureate service is "a Traditional Christian event dating back to the 1400s" and objected to the travesty of evolving tradition occurring before the audience of - not a religious event -  but "a Christian event in the Bible Belt." 

She's not bigoted, she says, but suggests that Danville High School folks should have known better than to try such a thing around here. Then Allen issued a challenge. "Want to take me on about my objection to the cancer of political correctness? To how weak it makes us individually and collectively? THEN BRING IT ON!"

Interesting challenge.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Allen is correct, and that our precious traditions must be protected from outside forces that threaten to break down society as we know it - all in the name of political correctness, or diversity. 

If Allen is correct, then our precious fifteenth century English traditions would still hold that...
  • she must be silenced immediately, and chastened against the chance that she might repeat her offense of offering her opinions into the matters reserved to men
  • by virtue of her inferior sex, her husband, father, uncles, or other responsible men in her family should take her in hand, or risk punishment themselves
  • she is not an individual under the law and has no rights; she is chattel, submissive and subject to her husband; she can be bought and sold
  • being more carnal than man, defective in formation from the outset, the bent rib...she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives, and therefore should not be listened to
  • she is a foe to friendship, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, and the source of all carnal lust, which, in a woman is insatiable, and from which witchcraft derives
  • she is not accorded any civil rights, is not allowed to appear in court, unless on behalf of, and at the behest of, her husband 
If Allen is correct, we have been made weaker as a nation for our toleration of women in political discourse, and we should all regret allowing the inferior sex to vote.

You get the point. I like traditions as well as the next guy. But, I like civil rights more.

School officials reacted appropriately and supported the minority student's civil rights. 

It seems to me that Danville, Kentucky has moved well past the 15th century. At least, most if it.

 Danvile High School baccalaureate service stirs controversy

This from the Advocate-Messenger:

An event meant to honor the diverse beliefs of the 2015 graduates of Danville High School has instead caused a rift to develop among adults in the community — some with no children in school.
“We wanted to represent all diversity,” said Virginia Bugg. “The goal of the baccalaureate — as parents in this community, we are here to support them in their faith, whatever that may be, to raise them up to be good citizens of the United States.”
This year, the program included words from students of various beliefs, including atheism, Christianity and Islam, as well as a speech from Lee Jefferson, assistant professor of religion at Centre College, and music from the men’s choir of First Baptist Church, Second and Walnut streets, and from a hispanic student at the school.

The baccalaureate service, held Sunday night, is a yearly event connected to the festivities for graduating seniors and, at Danville High School, is initiated by parents and seniors.
However, it was the words spoken by a 17-year-old graduating senior that have created the most buzz.

The senior is of the Muslim faith and, true to her faith, chose to read for her classmates a passage from the Quran in both Arabic and English, an excerpt which says, “In the name of God, the infinitely compassionate and merciful. Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds. The compassionate, the merciful. Ruler on the day of reckoning. You alone we do worship, and you alone we do ask for help. Guide us on the straight path, the path of those who have received your grace; not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wonder astray.”

Those words caused one set of parents to leave the service and write a blog post denouncing it. Angela Allen, writer at, was there with her family and recorded the event online.

“I honestly can’t describe the anger that rose in me,” Allen wrote in her blog. She and those she was with left the event early, waiting outside until it was over.

Allen writes in her blog that she is not a particularly religious person, but that her issue with it is the tradition involved.

“I’m not a bigot, closed-minded or against everything that’s not like me. I’m neither a religious nut of any flavor, nor am I in alignment with many who would spew hate from the other side of the fence,” she writes. “What I am totally against is this ‘politically correct’ society that continually tramples the traditions of others in the name of open-mindedness and progressiveness.

“If our differences are what make us wonderful — and they are — then quit trying to homogenize my world.”

Allen said her issue with the program was that it went against the traditions of the baccalaureate service.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the baccalaureate dates to medieval times, roughly 1649, as a service when a sermon was delivered. goes on to explain that it was the 1600s when the word was coined; however, the more modern meaning arose about 1864 when it became a “religious farewell address to the graduating class.”

In recent years, the meaning has continued to transform, with some schools taking the religious context out entirely.

At Danville High School, participants in the baccalaureate have transformed it over the years to be an interfaith service, one that is dedicated to the diversity of the student population.

It has been held at the school for the past several years; however, it is not a school-sanctioned function. The committee that arranges the baccalaureate consists of parents who are also in on the planning for Project Graduation.

Bugg, who was one of the parents on that committee, was shocked at the reactions from the community, especially from individuals who were made aware of the nature of the baccalaureate service.

“Everyone got emails — all parents got it. If anyone had a problem with it, they needed to come be a part of our committee,” she said.

Invitations were sent out to parents, which said, “The event will consist of speeches, readings and music that contain both secular and religious components that reflect our diverse student body.”
Three years ago, the older brother of the young student spoke, also sharing his Muslim beliefs. No issues were raised then, according to their parents, but now they fear for their daughter, who has been the brunt of negative statements from community members. Her peers have celebrated her in speaking, they said.

Their faith is one of peace, not the extremism so widely displayed on mainstream media, they said.
“Trying to represent all of the students is a great aim,” said Jaemi Loeb. Loeb, an assistant professor of music at Centre College, is of the Jewish faith. She has a close friend who's child is a junior at the high school. “If people have a problem with other beliefs, then we have problems. Danville is relatively diverse.”

No students are required to attend baccalaureate, and some chose not to.

“It was totally optional. Only about 40 or 50 people came,” Bugg said.

While the event was not a school-run event, Danville Independent Schools issued a statement Monday evening in support of the diversity shown at the baccalaureate.

“At the event, words of hope, acceptance, well wishes, and joy emanated from a diverse set of presenters, which included a student of Muslim faith, the men’s choir of the First Baptist Church, a parent, and a professor of religion from Centre College.

“Though neither the Board of Education nor the school district organize or sponsor baccalaureate services, we take this opportunity to express our congratulations to the wonderful diversity of students that compose this year’s graduating class, like many before and many more to come. In the Danville Schools, all means all…”

Keith Look, superintendent, said he was in the buildings on Monday, partially to see if there were any problems aligning with the community firestorm buzzing on social media.

“Every place was a happy, functioning center of education,” he said.

DHS Principal Aaron Etherington said he was proud.

“We have so many at Danville High School that represent diversity with high regard. I’m proud of our senior class and all the individuals in the class,” Etherington said.